The Making of a Name

I go to pick up my granddaughter at preschool and her teacher tells me I’m dead.

Well, that’s a surprise.

This teacher, Ms. Debbi, is one of them kind who’s always very sure about things. Maybe she gets it from talking to 4-year-olds all day. When she says, “This color is purple,” she knows she’s right.

But this time she’s wrong I got to explain. My daughter Gumdrop and her husband Slime had to rush off to see Slime’s granddaddy “Gassy” in Chicago because he’s ready to kick the bucket – so they asked me to come to Folsom, which is where they live, and take care of the kids until they can get back.

Lollipop is 4 and Go-Cup is 2. Lollipop goes to a little preschool and I’m supposed to drive her there and pick her up.

Now, if you got grandkids, you know you can’t just throw them in the back seat and tell them to look out the window, like maybe you used to do with your own kids. You can’t even buckle them in seatbelts. You got to secure them safely in a crash-proof car seat with a three-point harnesses. Getting two snakes into straight jackets would be easier. But I do it.

When I pull up into the school’s drop-off drive, I set Lollipop free from her car seat, and she runs in by herself and waves bye-bye at the door. Her mama told me this is OK, and I don’t have to personally walk her in, so I don’t. This turns out to be a mistake.

When school is over, I stroll in, holding Go-Cup, take Lollipop’s hand and I say to Ms. Debbi, “Hi, I came to get Lollipop. I’m her grandma,” and Lollipop says, “No, you’re not my grandma.”

Ms. Debbi’s antennas shoot up.

Now, way back before Lollipop was born, I had decided that I didn’t want my grandchildren to call me no old lady name like Grandma or Meemaw or Goomba or nothing like that. It isn’t just because I don’t want an old lady name. It is because when I read the obituaries of older dead people in The Times-Picayune, I notice that a lot of them have names like Adelle “Goomba” LeBlanc. Now you can bet the name “Goomba” wasn’t something Adelle’s mama picked out.

So where did it come from? I will tell you where. “Goomba” was the first syllable that drooled out of her first little grandchild’s mouth, years before, and poor Adelle was so excited to be a grandma, she insisted this baby was talking to her. And then she answered to “Goomba” for the rest of her life. (I was pretty sure that this is how Slime’s grandfather came to be called “Gassy.”)

Anyway, I decided that if I was going to have a weird name in my obituary, I would pick it out myself. When my grandchildren were born, I stood over their little bassinets and repeated the name I had always wanted, very slowly. “Tiifffffaannyy.” And that is how I became their Tiffany.

And would you believe, their other grandma, Slime’s mother, thinks the same way. Her name is Amanda, and she has the grandchildren call her “Mandy.”
And I got a problem.

I tell Lollipop she knows good and well I am her grandma and Lollipop says, “Nooooo. You’re my Tiffany!”

The light bulb pops on over my head.

Poor Lollipop thinks she got no grandma. Instead she got a Tiffany and a Mandy.

But Ms. Debbi, who ain’t the sharpest Crayola in the eight-pack, don’t get it.

She says, “Unless I am severely misinformed, and I don’t believe I am, both of Lollipop’s grandmothers are pre-deceased.”

Then she says that Lollipop told her she didn’t have no grandmas when they sent Grandparents Day invitations back in September.

(Later on I find out from Gumdrop that all the grandmothers were invited to go spend a school day with their grandkids. Since both of Lollipop’s grandmothers live in New Orleans and we both work, Gumdrop decided not to enlighten Ms. Debbi, and went herself instead.)

 So even though I’m holding a matching baby on my hip – a baby with the same blue eyes and red hair and little button nose as Lollipop – Ms. Debbi glares at me like I’m Tiffany the Child Stealer.

She tells me that since she received no advance notice, she’s required to call Gumdrop at home to check on whether Tiffany is allowed to take charge of this child. I tell her she will have to call Gumdrop on her cell phone, because she’s in Chicago. She says she don’t have that number. I offer to give it to her, but she says it could be the number of my accomplice. I tell her she’s been watching too much TV.

Finally, she goes to the school file cabinet and looks up the name and phone number Lollipop put down as her emergency contact. “It’s a Modine Gunch,” she says to me. Very ostentatiously, she calls the number, and my purse begins to ring. (Actually it plays “The Star-Spangled Banner” but the effect is just as good.)
Then I show her my driver’s license. And I explain about Tiffany, and how I don’t want to die with a name like “Gassy,” but she just looks at me like I’ve wet my pants.

The next day I turn my grandchild over to her rightful parents, who’ve come back home since Gassy has taken a turn for the better.

I got to find out. I ask Slime how his granddaddy came to be called “Gassy.” His own mother named him that, he says. I say “Why? Did he have bad colic?” No, it was a family name. He was born Gassy and he’ll die Gassy.

Well, I will die “Tiffany.”

But not yet, Ms. Debbi.

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